Note: This is a different style of ‘conversational blogging’ that Benjamin Wilcox and I wanted to try inspired by the topic of instant gratification and a conversation we had together. My thoughts and responses are in green and Ben’s are in blue. Let us know what you think and enjoy.
Grace: We live in a society driven by instant gratification. We like quick victories and immediate results. Success is often driven by short-term consequences. We expect an instant solution to problems and are deeply impatient.
Although it was 150 years ago, it seems Ralph Waldo Emerson was prolific as he observed, “This shallow Americanism with its passion for sudden success…”
In the 1960s, psychologist Walter Mischel performed a series of tests on preschoolers referred to as The Marshmallow Tests.
When I recently stumbled across the cute reenactment video of these tests researchers gave marshmallows to 4-year-olds, asked to sit alone in a room and told to not eat it. The researcher says, “I’ll be back in five minutes, and if you still have the marshmallow when I return, I’ll give you another one. Eat the marshmallow or save it-it’s up to you.”
Albeit cute, it was excruciating to watch the kids taunted by the marshmallow. They weren’t able to resist the marshmallow in front of them. So we’re a nation that can’t resist eating the marshmallow. Fortune Magazine says, “we’ll pay a price down the road…the tendency has been advancing for years and just lately has emerged in a couple of high-profile and alarming ways.”
Benjamin: I agree that it was excruciating to watch. Kids love marshmallows, I can’t blame them! But, the video made me think about a big difference between kids and adults. Obviously, these are little kids in the video and kids are notorious for short attention spans. When children grow into adults, it is expected that they can grow out of their impatience and need for instant gratification. Being able to save money and make sacrifices now is one of the responsibilities that come with being an adult.
The mortgage and credit collapse were caused by grown men and women who bought larger houses than they could afford and filled them by maxing out their credit card. All of these actions were because they couldn’t wait to save for what they wanted. They craved instant gratification.
So it looks like this. We transfer as children, into adults where we learn young (and train our brains) about instant gratification and impatience from an early age.
Fixing the Problem Within Moments
I will be the first to admit it. I like to find solutions right away. For example, I just had a problem with my Microsoft Word. Frustrated, I immediately Googled my problem, found the answer and fixed the formatting problem within three minutes. I would have grown frustrated and impatient if it weren’t available at my finger tips, like it usually is.
I do this exact same thing when troubleshooting just about everything. Our television box was malfunctioning and my roommate used Google to find the problem. It turned out there was a remote that was still in the box and was necessary to operate the box.
I know that I would have pulled my hair out if I couldn’t find the answer to the problem. Part of that is because I am an engineer, we are trained that every problem has an answer. Another reason is the one you have alluded to above. I agree that the internet might have contributed to making us impatient. However, I think the internet has also made us very efficient workers. We are able to find solutions to problems faster than ever because of the internet.
Men Vs. Women:
I think that men and women react the same way within their own class. I can’t think of a difference with how they react to instant gratification.
I think women crave instant gratification. My girlfriend honestly asserts, “I think it’s because we need more things to make us feel good. Women are more dependent on finding things that make our lives easier because if we have those things, we will somehow be more secure with ourselves.”
For example: we have an aestheticism wax instead of shaving, we order online so we don’t have to wait in lines at grocery or department stores and we do miracle diets that will make us thin for the party we’re attending next week.
I agree with your examples for how women crave instant gratification, but I would argue that men are more impatient than women. Think about the person behind you during your commute who is honking his horn because you aren’t going 35 over the speed limit. Chances are that person is a man. What about the man in line at the grocery store who is sighing because you chose to pay with a check?
Men are always in a hurry, no matter where we are going or how busy our schedule is that day. We brag to each other about how quickly we can drive to and from certain destinations. Listen next time you are at a family gathering, while the women are updating each other on their lives, the men are comparing their driving routes and arrival times.
Is there a solution?
Is our need for instant gratification a problem that needs to be solved? Maybe solved is the wrong word. I do know that I have very little patience and when I take a deep breath and bring patience into my life, I am generally more positive, sane and productive.
There are obvious problems that stem from the need for instant gratification and some of them are outlined above. However, I feel that being able to step back and see how this need is affecting our lives is paramount. By realizing how impatient we are being, we can reverse the trends and take back control of our economy, our lives, and most importantly, our sanity.